Melancholia takes its title from a print made by Albrecht Durer in1514 that depicts a despondent figure of an angel surrounded by idle or abandoned tools and objects relating to architecture and geometry. These instruments reflect the creative temperament of genius attributed to Melancholy during the Renaissance, though here she appears introspective and pessimistic, even destructive.
Durer produced this image during the Reformation, a time when Europe was struggling with old certainties and new ideas that replaced a defined religious hegemony with individual conscience and responsibility. Melancholia can be seen as both introspectively contemplating the changing nature of understanding the world and yearning for older, disappearing knowledge and belief.
This exhibition takes the duel nature of the Melancholic temperament to explore the creative aspects, romantic and euphoric, alongside the negative indulgent and destructive elements. Thought of as a state of dark humour, black bile and madness in the Medieval world, during the Renaissance melancholy became an introverted or self reflective state necessary for artistic creativity, later embodied by the Romantics aesthetic reaction to the natural environment.
Contrasting elements are combined in David Stewart’s exhibition that explores the contradictory nature of Melancholia; organic, geological forms surrounding more grounded architectural and geometric objects. Sculptures that look like towers and reliquaries stoically safeguarding values and beliefs are beset by upheaval and doubt in the irregularly proportioned rock fall suggesting a more saturnine state of emotion.
These Gothic, old world steel structures and meteor-like forms are forged and constructed from recycled metal that ensures their former uses and the processes undergone are still discernable in their present incarnation.
The drawings depict places or spaces inhabited by abandoned or overlooked objects and materials that combine with their environment to create a world of both system and confusion. Together these drawings and sculptures attempt to recognise the melancholic temperament where opposites attempt a balance, the creative and destructive, euphoria and depression.
Contemporary Melancholia could be described as a questioning involvement or a nostalgic disengagement from a world of shifting priorities and expanding technological possibilities, especially in the nature of individual creativity. A contemplative and introspective reminiscing contrasted with an immediate, shared interactive present.
“ In the midst of progress we find ourselves standing still…” Gunter Grass